Interview: Frances Limoncelli of THE OUTSIDER an EQUITY SHOWCASE AT MATCH

A chance to see some of the best actors in Houston!

By: Mar. 20, 2024
Interview: Frances Limoncelli of THE OUTSIDER an EQUITY SHOWCASE AT MATCH
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Interview: Frances Limoncelli of THE OUTSIDER an EQUITY SHOWCASE AT MATCH

(Photo by Jeff McMorrough. Pictured are Tracy Ahern and Joel Sandel) 

Equity showcases in Houston are rare finds and present a unique opportunity for audiences. A “showcase” is where a group of talented actors get together, produce a script they would LOVE to do, and run for a few weeks. We get to see some of Houston’s best talent doing what they are great at doing. Tracy Ahern and Kara Greenberg (Mighty Acorn and WCO Productions) are heading up this presentation of THE OUTSIDER. This political comedy has a lot to say about our current era.


The cast for this showcase includes Tracy Ahern, Callina Anderson, Ronnie Blaine, Dain Geist, Kara Greenberg, David LaDuca, and Joel Sandel. The cast is a stacked deck, including some of the best talent this city offers. Broadway World writer Brett Cullum got to sit down and talk to Frances Limoncelli, who is directing THE OUTSIDER, which opens at the MATCH COMPLEX on March 28th and runs through April 7th.


Brett Cullum: Tell me a little about this showcase and how it came about.


Frances Limoncelli: THE OUTSIDER is part of the Equity Showcase series in Houston. And so, our producers are two amazing equity career-long actresses, and they're looking to produce great work that appeals to audiences. They also can highlight themselves and some of their favorite artists in Houston.


Many of us worked together on ALMOST, MAINE last year (performed at THE MATCH). They asked me, “Do you have a play that you could recommend?” I thought about my two producers and the cast they wanted to use, and I thought, “Let’s do a comedy!” And what popped into my head was THE OUTSIDER by Paul Slade Smith.


It is a very successful published play that's had over a hundred productions! But when I became familiar with it was, I believe, in 2015, before it was published, when it had just had its very first productions. I was in a reading of it in Chicago.


It is a hilarious comedy. A very uplifting and loving send-up of American politics that is very skillful about it. Besides, the precision and hilarity of the comedy are that it's nonpartisan. It is making fun of American politics without bringing parties into it. I think it is a relief for audiences who are probably pretty worn out with just how upsetting, angry, and divisive American politics has been in recent years.


Some of the reasons that have gotten us to this very divisive place in American politics are hinted at in this play. Some Americans prefer style over substance or want something that feels familiar, and they are suspicious of the government. A lot of Americans do not have a good idea about what running the government entails. All of those things are included in this play. It's very relevant to today without dragging you into the politics of this era.


Brett Cullum: I'm glad to see you all doing a political comedy, but not something that's going to be identified as Left or Right or have an obvious leaning towards one or the other.


What is the goal here? Is this raising funds for anything?  


Frances Limoncelli:  We're not raising funds for any particular charity. It's my understanding this is in the true spirit of an equity showcase. It is simply showcasing Houston actors. They get to be in roles that people haven't seen them in before or in combinations they haven't been in before. It’s a celebration of Houston Equity talent!


Brett Cullum: How is it being an equity actor in Houston? Is it difficult?


Frances Limoncelli: I lived and worked in New York and then mostly Chicago, and the difference between Houston and those cities is that both of them have an equity office in the city. Most auditions are run through the equity office, which has a designated space for them. It’s an anchor. It consolidates things and makes opportunities easy to find.


In Houston, there have been attempts to create a coalition of theaters to have group auditions and listings. But there is no center or organization. Actors have to just stay up to date with theater websites, press releases, and season announcements and do all of that legwork themselves to make sure that they can audition for the parts that would be right for them.


Brett Cullum: A lot of the Equity houses here seem to import talent. They'll bring in people from New York City. They may fly in somebody to be the star of a musical. The local Equity actors are often relegated to the supporting characters or the chorus.


Frances Limoncelli: Any non-New York City in this country has that. That syndrome is where talent from New York is simply seen as better. And there are certainly more people working in New York. There's more talent, but it's my opinion you can find the best or the worst in New York City, and you can find the best or the worst in cities like Houston as well. So, just being from a place does not make you good, but it does come with some cachet, some glamour, and it's possible that regional theaters are sometimes dazzled by that, and it might be easy to overlook talent that is right under their nose.

 Being an actor under the best of circumstances is hard because it's not a role that wields much power in the industry. You're at the mercy of how you're perceived or what your reputation is. If you want to break out of a box you've been pigeonholed in, or if you have other talents that people haven't seen, it's hard to get people to see you for more than what they've seen you many times before. One of the reasons people do equity showcases is to say I can do this, too. You've seen me do drama, but you haven't seen me do comedy!


It's a great opportunity for actors to take a little power in the industry and have a little bit of control over their careers and how they're seen. And I think that's a great thing Equity does and something that's needed.


One of the motivations for providing Houston with this play was to be able to showcase people the producers (Tracy Ahern and Kara Greenberg) enjoyed working with or who they have always wanted to work with and to give them a platform.


Any production of a show has to do with relationships. These actors are here because they believe in Tracy and Kara. Most of them have worked with me last year, so hopefully they believe in me, too. It is a little bit of sacrifice all the way around, and that's sort of how a lot of theater gets made.


Brett Cullum: Absolutely. I think that's how all theater gets made.



THE OUTSIDER will open Thursday, March 28th, and run at the MATCH facility through April 7th. The performances are two hours and fifteen minutes and have a fifteen-minute interval. There is ongoing construction in front of the MATCH, so plan accordingly to allow extra time for parking.